Boris buses feel cooler after heatwave passengers dubbed them ‘cauldrons on wheels’

Ham&High reporter Imogen Blake and the 24 bus. Picture: Polly Hancock

Ham&High reporter Imogen Blake and the 24 bus. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

Ham&High reporter Imogen Blake sets out to see what the Boris buses, dubbed ‘cauldrons on wheels’ feel like for travellers on a day-to-day basis – and to experience the supposedly hellish heat for herself.

The new fleet of gleaming Routemaster “Boris buses” should be attracting the admiration of all who see them glide through Camden’s streets.

But the vehicles have become known as “cauldrons on wheels” after temperatures reached more than 30C (86F) on the upper deck during the recent heatwave.

Route 24, which stretches from Hampstead Heath to Pimlico, is the first to be entirely made-up of the new £350,000 double-deckers. But after sitting sweatily in tropical temperatures, one Hampstead commuter said she would rather get the 168 than the iconic buses.

With great trepidation, I set out to see what this overheated journey feels like for travellers on a day-to-day basis – and to experience the hellish heat for myself.

Two of the buses sit waiting to pick up their first passengers in a cobbled street in South End Green. It’s hard not to admire their stylish design, with large, curved and extremely well-polished windows.

On a cloudy and pleasantly warm, Friday morning, I don’t notice any temperature change as I stepped onto the bus, but did see just how clean and modern the vehicle looks in comparison to some of the older buses driving around the capital.

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A conductor stands at the open back door, behind two sets of seats facing each other, which might prompt even the most reticent commuters to acknowledge their fellow travellers.

I head upstairs, where temperatures reached their highest a couple of weeks ago, but I find that the ambient temperature is, if not cool, then refreshingly mild.

The air conditioning is working perfectly, though very noisily.

The air-con has not always been so reliable on the Routemasters. A regular No 24 user from Hampstead, who did not want to be named, said she travelled on the bus when it was not working on one of the hottest days of the year.

She said: “I felt sick and it made me feel very ill. With the weather as it is, it was just horrible. I try to get the 168 instead when possible now.”

Another regular Hampstead user, Helen Lloyd, 31, of Mansfield Road, said that despite highest temperatures being recorded on the upper deck, the bottom tier is actually far worse.

“There’s no air conditioning there, or at least it’s not as strong downstairs. You can’t feel a draft from the back door and that is a problem.”

On the lower deck, it is a lot warmer, and while I’m not breaking out into a sweat, it is starting to feel uncomfortable.

As the bus pulls into Grosvenor Road, Pimlico, I don’t step off the vehicle with a huge sense of relief, but I’m certainly glad to be standing in the cooler streets.

I get the Tube back to the office. Around the same temperature as the bus, and a lot speedier than the hour it took to get from the Heath to the riverbank, I don’t regret the decision.